Two weeks in…

Ralph: We weren’t going to blog this trip, but doing it in Southern Africa proved such a great way to document (and share) the experience, especially for the kids to appreciate in the future (hopefully), so we’ve taken a last minute decision to do it again. Also, I’ve always wanted to officially use the word isthmus

We are currently in Jiquilillo (A on map below), NW Nica, just below El Salvador and Honduras.

I have been alone with the girls here for the last 2 weeks. We have 3 weeks left and the plan (see map below) is to pick up Li in Managua (the capital), then drive a few hrs south to Granada A (colonial town), then ferry to Isla Ometepe B for a week or so (on Lake Nicaragua) then boat to SE islands (Islas Solentiname) C and then east on the Rio San Juan D.

Rio San Juan runs east from Lake Nicaragua until it reaches the Caribbean. It is actually navigable by small boat and was the quickest trans-isthmus route to San Francisco during the California Gold Rush.

These days it is largely unpopulated and covered by thick jungle – seems to be Mosquito Coast meets Heart of Darkness, with howler monkeys, alligators, 500 year old orchid bangled trees and floursecent fingernail-sized frogs. Plans are afoot to build a new Pacific to Caribbean canal to rival Panama’s. If the proposed canal happens, this pristine jungle and waterway will all disappear.

Lonely Planet describes is thus: “You could roam the globe for decades and it would be tough to top what you are about to experience here”. We are extremely excited.

Jiquilillo (where we are right now) is a fishing village, and suprisingly poor. Every evening, at sunset, the boats are pushed out over wooden rollers, and the men head out to sea. 18ft fibreglass boats, one 75hp engine, no life-jackets and not all can swim. Everyone helps push them out. The whole village comes out to help and watch – extremely moving to watch. They fish 5-10kms offshore and we can see their lights after dark. They return at sunrise.

The first 3/4 days here were very tough – we felt isolated and well out of our comfort zone (constant fight agains red ants and gecko-poo and in-your-face poverty everywhere). But by day 5 we’d made new friends (neighbours from California plus the caretaker’s lovely kids plus locals on the beach) and met a whole bunch of travellers at the backpacker lodge about 1km north, which also runs a volunteer-driven community kids arts and play group in the afternoons. We’ve done a lot of surfing and all have plunged into speaking Spanish. We’re 1hr from the closest town so have been buying food from pulperias (teeny shops inside people’s homes, selling basics).

The homes in the village are very, very, very basic – Mozambique style, except they sleep on hammocks and have electricity (seemingly reserved for sound-systems and satellite dishes). A 1992 Tsunami destroyed the village. Now high tide erodes the road and all these homes are threatened. Like the east coast of Africa, plastic peppers the high-tide line. No matter how much clearing up one does, and no matter where one is in the world, bottles and old toothbrushes and small bits of fishing line, alas, are now the beachcombers’ destined fare.

The electricty for the whole area fails daily (and nightly).

Lots of mozzzies and bugs, and red crabs all over the house at night (because we are lucky enough to be on a beach). There is Malaria here but it’s almost benign – can be addressed by Choloroquine alone – like Malawi 25 years ago before mosquitoes built in resistance.

The Jiquilillo Posse goes feral: Ari-Aris, Ethan, Bea, Mila, Wilder (Kelvin, Jefferson and Joceline missing). In their stilted Spanglish, somehow they communicate…

All one needs is a tree. Our fresh water is from the daily storms, collected via the roof in the blue tubs behind.

All very happy, especially Bobby who has been following us for the last 3 days…

My lovely Mila.

Our first film (dunno if there will be more – low bandwith):


  1. Lisa says:

    Wish I was there…oh hang on…I am in Texas about to get on a plane to Managua where you will meet me at the airport! I am there! Nearly!

  2. Cindy Newman says:

    Oh – so jealous, looks amazing. Have been looking through so many old pictures of our travels through Mocambique – we wish we were all with you xxxx

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